Edith Wharton

Edith Wharton was born in 1862 at Edith Newbold Jones in New York. Born into a wealthy upper-class family, the term "keeping up with the Joneses" originated with her family. Educated privately she married Edward Wharton in 1885, a banker who she divorced in 1913. As a teenager, she rejected the standards of the time that expected a woman of her class to marry well and spend her life throwing parties and attending balls. Since she was minimally educated as most women of her social class, she desired more of an education and began to read books from her father's library as well as those of his friends. Her mother had forbidden her to read novels until after her marriage, and Edith complied.

The first novel she tried to write was when she was eleven years old and continued to write poetry and fiction in her youth. When she was fifteen years old she sold a translation of a German poem for fifty dollars. Although her father supported her continuing her education, the poem was published under his name because during her time a woman of the upper class only had her name in print at her birth, death, marriage and the births of her children.

At the age of twenty-three, she married Edward Wharton who was twelve years older and shared her love of travel. But, his health and deep depression grounded them. They spent the rest of their marriage at their estate The Mount, which Edith designed. When his mental state deteriorated past the point of no return, she divorced him a began a relationship with Morton Fullerton, a journalist and as intellectual as she was. During the first World War, she lived in France and worked with charities to help refugees. Along with her tireless work, she also kept up her work as a writer. She wrote novels, short stories, poetry and reported for the New York Times. At the same time, she kept up an enormous amount of correspondence. Because of this, she was awarded the Chevalier of the Legion of Honour by the President of France.

She wrote poetry and books on design and travel. She also wrote criticisms for literature and culture. She also published lots of poetry, eighty-five short stories, seven novellas and fifteen novels. She even wrote a memoir, but she didn't publish her first novel until she was forty years old.

Having spent her life in the upper class late nineteenth society she wrote about that world. In 1921 she won the Pulitzer Prize for "The Age of Innocence" became the first woman to earn an honorary degree from Yale University. Edith Wharton was also nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1927, 1928 and 1930. She was a friend of writers such as Henry James and Joseph Conrad, as well as political leaders such as Theodore Roosevelt.

Edith Wharton spoke fluent French, Italian, and German. Many of her books were published in both English and French. She translated the book of poetry, essays, art and musical scores by many well-known artists that she put together as a money raising effort for the war effort, from French into English. Theodore Roosevelt included a two-page introduction praising her. "The Book of the Homeless" was published in 1915.

In 1937, while working on a revised edition of her book "The Decoration of Houses" with Odgen Codman, she suffered a heart attack. Eleven weeks later she suffered a fatal stroke. She is buried in the American Protestant section of the Cimetiere des Gonards in Versailles next to her long time friend, Walter Berry.

Ethan Frome

"Ethan Frome", published in 1911 by Edith Wharton, is the story of a man who is trapped by duty. This novella is different from the kind of books Wharton usually wrote involving the upper classes from which she came. Ethan Frome begins with an Engineer who is temporarily staying in a small town in Massachusetts. He becomes interested in the only character that stands out in the town of … [Read more...]